I’ll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck: A Book Review

I’ll Push You

Patrick Gray, Justin Skeesuck

Two best friends, 500 miles, one wheelchair, and the challenge of a lifetime.
Friendship takes on new meaning in this true story of Justin and Patrick, born less than two days apart in the same hospital. Best friends their whole lives, they grew up together, went to school together, and were best man in each other’s weddings. When Justin was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease that robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, Patrick was there, helping to feed and care for him in ways he’d never imagined. Determined to live life to the fullest, the friends refused to give into despair or let physical limitations control what was possible for Justin.

So when Justin heard about the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek through Spain, he wondered aloud to Patrick whether the two of them could ever do it. Patrick’s immediate response was: “I’ll push you.”

I’ll Push You is the real-life story of this incredible journey. A travel adventure full of love, humor, and spiritual truth, it exemplifies what every friendship is meant to be and shows what it means to never find yourself alone. You’ll discover how love and faith can push past all limits—and make us the best versions of ourselves.

My Review: I’m not even sure where to start with this review. This book touched my heart in so many ways that I’m not certain I will be able to do it justice. The description above tells you the story of what this book is about, so I am going to focus on what I found within the pages of this book.

This is the true story of two best friends and their journey, not only a journey across 500 miles, but in all of life.

Never in my life have I dog-eared so many pages in a book.

The friendship between Justin and Patrick blows my mind. It also inspires me and fills me with hope and determination.

People often ask Justin and me what makes our friendship so strong. Our answer is simple; We choose to share life’s adventures. I make his “I wonders” mine and he makes my  “I wonders” his. We pursue life together. We always have.

Friendship is fiercely important in my life and I absolutely love the way they view their friendship. This is exactly the way I want my friendships to be. I feel like so often in this world, friendship takes a backseat to everything else in life. We live in a busy time and everyone is running in a million directions and it feels like friendships are the thing that gets pushed aside. It’s so easy now to maintain a friendship using social media or other modern technology. And, while those are great tools, they can be a hindrance to the true connection of friendship.

Would you press pause on your everyday life and take a 500 mile journey with your best friend? Would I? And, would you do it with the commitment that Patrick had to Justin? “I’ll push you.”

Those three words may sound simple, but they are powerful beyond anything I can grasp.

Patrick knew he would have to take care of all of Justin’s basic needs. He would be responsible for feeding, clothing and bathing his friend, yet he didn’t hesitate. In this self-centered world, we see “friends” who won’t even keep a commitment for a coffee date, and these friends are committing to a 500 mile journey that is going to be beyond challenging, and quite realistically impossible.

I can’t even fathom.

This is a privilege. It may be work at times; it may mean I’m the first one up in the morning and the last to bed, but to have the opportunity to tangibly express my love for my friend, to serve him, is a gift I cherish.

Patrick considered taking care of his friend a privilege. The opportunity to serve and show tangible love to our friends should be viewed this way. What a gift!

The bible says Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. What does this look like? I think it looks exactly like the friendship between Patrick & Justin.

Along their journey, they met many people who not only impacted their journey physically by helping to lighten their load, but they impacted them spiritually and emotionally as they shared true community among each other. This is a picture of what the church should be. A place where all are welcome and loved and where we carry each others burdens, lighten each other’s loads and live life side by side.

Sitting here in this square in the middle of Spain, I’m thinking of all the damaged relationships that could be healed and the broken relationships that could be mended if we all chose to stop the distractions, rest in the presence of those we love, and keep them close.

This. I have seen and experienced too many damaged and broken relationships in this life and I think it’s because we don’t know how to love completely, sacrificially, deeply, transparently, unselfishly.

We have to pursue each other. We have to make time for each other. If we want to have deep, meaningful relationships in our lives, we have to be willing to lay down our lives for our friends. This might not mean literally dying for a friend, but it might mean giving up a convenience, sacrificing some time, showing up when you don’t feel like it, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and transparent.

As adults it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we must pursue one another, even when it gets in the way of our own priorities. We can tell people how much we love them, how much they mean to us, but this means nothing if we don’t pursue them. We have to pick up the phone, make time to be together, get in a car and make the drive, or hop on a plane and fly across the country. Like it or not, we are what we do, not what we say we will do.

We live in a world where the mentality is “me and mine first”. If my needs, wants and desires and those of my immediate family are satisfied, I might have a moment or two to spare for you. That is NOT the way to pursue a friendship. To value a friendship, you must be committed to it, and your efforts and actions must reflect that.

In this unique friendship, we see at the forefront, a willingness by Patrick to push Justin on this 500 mile journey. What we may not realize is Justin’s willingness to be pushed. Think about it, how difficult would it be to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough with your friend, to let him bathe you, clothe you, feed you? There is a humble servant in both of these men. They both know what it means to lay down their lives for each other.

How often are we afraid to be vulnerable in every day life? To open up and let someone in?

Another thing that really resonated with me in this book is the transformation that took place in Patrick during their journey. He realized that his priorities weren’t where they should be and he acknowledged that he had a hard time letting go of control, allowing God to lead and letting others help him in his journey. He felt in order to succeed and do things right, he had to do it perfectly and completely, without help. As he struggled with allowing others to come along side them to help push and pull Justin through the trails, he realized that embracing his limitations, and allowing himself to be vulnerable were his greatest strengths.

We can’t do everything on our own, and we weren’t meant to. God desires that we live life together, support, encourage and lift each other up. We are meant to live in community and fellowship with one another. This means living in a way that is sacrificial, selfless and vulnerable.

Along the journey of Justin and Patrick, we see the most beautiful picture of friendship I’ve ever seen, except in biblical history. Their friendship inspires me more than I can say. I want so desperately to be the kind of friend that they exemplify, and I want to have friends like that too. The reason Patrick and Justin’s friendship works so well is because they are BOTH committed to each other.  I’ve never been in a position to push a friend 500 miles, or to bathe or feed them when they could not bathe or feed themselves, but I’d like to think that if the circumstance ever arose, I would joyfully say “I’ll push you.’ and consider it a privilege.

I highly recommend this book to every person EVER. *I received a copy of this book free of charge from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. 

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Journaling the Bible

Recently, my dear friend Amy and I both acquired journaling bibles. Shortly after this, we felt inspired to start a weekly scripture journaling that we would share via Instagram. We’ve only been at it for a few short weeks, but I have been so blessed by it already.

I’ve never been a good notetaker or journaler, and it’s always been challenging for me to “write” in my bible. However, since taking the plunge into this, I have felt so inspired. Journaling the bible has stirred up so much in me, and it’s caused me to see the word in a fresh new way. I feel so blessed to be on this journey with my precious friend.

I thought I would share an example of what we are doing. If you are on Instagram, you can follow our posts by searching for #ourheartshisword #weeklyword

This week’s word comes from the book of Isaiah, chapter 43 verse 19.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

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This week, I felt drawn to Isaiah 43:19. In this passage, Israel is in captivity. They’ve lost everything and their faith is shaken. They’ve failed God time and again. Even though God has done incredible things in their past, they need a renewal of faith for the future. They need to look ahead, instead of to the past.

Often times, we get too focused on the past. Our failures, mistakes and disappointments. It’s so hard for us to look ahead and to move forward. We have to quit looking behind us and focus our attention on what lies ahead. We need to fix our eyes on what God wants to do in our future. Dwelling on the past will keep us from moving forward with the new thing God wants to do in us! Maybe you have regrets, constantly asking yourself “What was I thinking?” Don’t let the past keep you trapped. It’s time to rise up and move on. Regret won’t move you forward. It will keep you stuck in the past. Learn what you can from your past, and begin to move forward with God. The old is passed away. The former things are gone.

But, God wants to do a new thing in our lives! Do you not perceive it? He wants to grow you. He wants to renew you. He wants to show you himself in a new way. It’s so easy to get comfortable in our walk with God. To stay with what is familiar and safe. To say, “God has done so much with me “here” where I am. Why bother moving?” We can easily get “stuck” where we are. But, just like we need to move beyond the mistakes and failures of our past, we also have to be continually moving forward in our faith. We can’t stay where we are. Even if it’s comfortable there. God wants to spring up something new in us! What new thing does God want to do in your life?

My prayer for those of us journaling this verse and all of us reading this, is that we would be people who look ahead with anticipation. That we would be movable and ready to go wherever God takes us. May we leave the past behind us, and spring forth with God! May we grow and flourish as we fully embrace the new things God wants to do in and through us!

The Feast or Famine of Friendship

washingtonquoteFriendship has always been very important to me, yet it’s always been something that I’ve struggled to find and hold on to in my life. My journey in friendship has had many ups and downs and lots of highs and lows. It has been both a source of strength and happiness, as well as a source of anguish and grief.

Over the past few years, I’ve gone through a lot of friendship struggles. Most recently, I’ve hit some pretty low lows and I’ve felt some of the hardest hurts I’ve ever experienced. I have a lot of huge regrets and I made a lot of mistakes that I willingly own up to. I’ve also gained some valuable perspective, and I hope that makes it all worth it.

My biggest regrets are allowing another person to influence my thoughts and decisions, thus greatly altering the course of my life. I’ve learned that I can’t let another person’s issues cause me to change who I am, and what I do. I am not a magical genie, able to change another person to their core, just by the mere loyalty of my friendship. Also, there is a difference between showing steadfast loyalty, and allowing another person to order your life. Further that, no friendship is worth sacrificing who you are. It’s just not.

What I’ve learned most through my recent experience is that I have been severely lacking in personal boundaries in my life. I’ve allowed other people to trample through my life as they please, and I’ve always just stepped aside and let them. Heck, I’ve even offered them a chair and a cold beverage as they stomped through my metaphorical house.

I’m now learning that I need boundaries, and that boundaries are healthy and necessary in our lives. I’m learning where I end, and another person begins. I’m learning what I am responsible for and what belongs to the other party. It’s been a life changing realization.

I’m also thankful that coming out from such a difficult experience with friendship has not left me bitter to the idea of friendship. On the contrary, I feel more motivated than ever to secure and cultivate healthy friendships in my  life. The task feels daunting, because I think it’s difficult to find others to which you can connect on an intimate friendship level.

I’m also being very careful in my choices. I’ve never really thought about the fact that I can choose my friends. Usually, it feels like they just sort of fall into my life somehow, and I accept them. Now, I’m looking at it from a different perspective and I am attempting to be proactive in my search for friends.

I’m looking for qualities that I respect and admire. Though, common lifestyle and interests would be nice, I’m not putting my emphasis there. I’m focusing on people who are worth the investment of my time, people who value friendship as much as I do and people who possess qualities that matter to me.

I am not:

  • Going to pursue friendship with anyone who makes me feel like I’m not good enough as I am.
  • Going to pursue friendship with anyone who makes me feel like I need to change or hide some aspect of who I am.
  • Going to pursue friendship with anyone who exhibits intense signs of jealousy or control.
  • Going to pursue friendship with anyone who expects an unreasonable amount of my time.
  • Going to pursue deep friendship with anyone whose values are suspect and do not line up with mine in the areas that matter.
  • Going to jump into any “best” friendships or make any promises that I don’t know if I can keep.
  • Going to maintain exclusive friendships, and disregard others. I won’t allow anyone to restrict my socialization with others because of their jealousy.

I will:

  • Seek out those who have qualities I respect and admire.
  • Value the friends I have been blessed with, and make sure they know how much I do.
  • Always, always be myself and stay true to that.
  • Protect my boundaries at all times.
  • Cautiously and carefully allow others deeper into my life, as they’ve shown and proven their character.
  • Make my friendships a priority and make every effort to spend quality time with them.
  • Allow my friends to be true to who they are and respect their opinions, ideas and personal tastes.

I will-but I won’t:

  • I will be forgiving, but I won’t allow myself to be emotionally abused.
  • I will be trusting, but I won’t be stupid.
  • I will make allowances for their faults and shortcomings, but I won’t live in a vicious cycle.

I’m far, far, far from perfect. I’m a flawed person, but I’m a person that recognizes that and seeks to maintains friendships with those that are just as flawed, but just as willing to own it. I’m also a person that not only recognizes their shortcomings, but also strives to be better and make better decisions.

As 2016 gets into full swing, I’m hopeful for what it has in store. I’m feeling more inspired, more encouraged and more motivated to develop healthy friendships than I have ever been, and my prayer is that I will follow God’s wisdom and leading as I take that leap into connecting with others this year. I hope that my posting at the end of 2016 tells of new relationships made that have blessed my life, and more than that, that I have been a blessing to others.